Adrian Frater, News Editor
Montego Bay, St James, is on the edge again.
Residents cower in the wake of the latest violence, which is reminding them of several similar periods of bloodletting they had to endure in the past decade.
Twelve persons' lives have been snuffed out by ruthless criminals in several incidents, including a triple murder and two double murders in the past week.
In the latest incident, a 36-year-old woman, Monique Watson of Rose Heights in St James, was shot and killed by a gunman who reportedly walked into her hairdressing parlour and shot her at point-blank range.
That followed 15 minutes of raw brutality last Wednesday morning, when four persons were slaughtered gangland-style in two incidents in North Gully, downtown Montego Bay, and Hibiscus Drive, Norwood.
That bloody onslaught evoked memories of the period in 2006 when the notorious Stonecrusher gang came to the fore, pushing the parish's murder count for a single year past the 100 mark - a dubious record that has since become the norm.
In the current bloody siege, the body count is now at 151, eight more than the corresponding period last year.
MOTHER, SON SHOT
In the first of the two incidents last Wednesday morning, heavily armed thugs kicked open the door of a house in North Gully and opened fire.
One man was shot dead at the scene, and a mother and her son hit several times in a hail of bullets.
The son, identified as 20-year-old Romario Haughton, succumbed to his injuries after being taken to hospital. His mother was treated and released.
In the morning's second incident, gunmen invaded a house on Hibiscus Drive in Norwood, and opened fire on the occupants.
Following that shooting, the bodies of 27-year-old mechanic Shane Anglin and Nicolette Palmer were found riddled with gunshot wounds.
While the shooters in last Wednesday morning's incidents remain at large, their modus operandi - spraying their victims with bullets - fits the styles of former notorious St James gangsters such as Patrick 'Swang' Stephens, Owen 'Jaggarue' Graham, Owen 'Pugan' Pearson, and Fitzroy 'The General' Smart.
Other notorious St James gangsters include Lenroy Bircher, Miguel Jarrett, Ichar 'Dread' Panton, Albert 'Sexy Paul' James, Nino 'Bada Bada' Alexander, Eric 'Sandokan' Brown, Michael 'Banna' Granstan, Delano 'Bigga Crime' Williams, Michael 'Lassie' Forbes, and Cedric 'Doggie' Murray.
They are some of the men who have worn the St James 'most-wanted' tag between 1982 and 2010.
Interestingly, the current commanding officer of the St James Police Division, Senior Superintendent Egbert 'Ground Gad' Parkins, who was brought in to tame the runaway monster in October, received an unceremonious welcome as the parish registered 36 murders in the month.
Nonetheless, the no-nonsense Parkins led the division to the monthly $100,000 reward offered by Police Commissioner Owen Ellington to the police division or formation that raked in the most illegal guns, dangerous drugs, and wanted persons for November."We have to make a difference," Parkins recently declared. "Things cannot continue like this, and I am determined to put things right … . I am here to do a job, and trust me, I will be leading from the front," added Parkins.
But even as the St James police work to reduce the rampant lawlessness in the parish, it would appear that the odds are stacked heavily against them.
Recent intelligence reports suggest that displaced lottery scammers, under pressure from local law enforcers and their international counterparts, are turning to armed robbery to sustain their flamboyant lifestyle.
"I don't know if they are moving away from scamming to robbery, but I do know that some of the criminals who have challenged us in recent gun battles have turned out to be men with lottery-scam antecedents," Assistant Commissioner of Police Warren Clarke, the commanding officer for Area One, which covers St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, and Trelawny, stated in a recent Gleaner interview.
In the heyday of the infamous lottery scam, circa 2008, an alliance was forged between the scammers and hardcore members of the Stonecrusher gang, who had initially targeted the scammers for extortion.
The gangsters took on the role of the protectors of the scammers in exchange for cash and other gifts, including high-powered rifles and fast cars.
The alliance between the so-called 'intellectual criminals' and their hardcore counterparts is nothing new to Montego Bay.
In the early 2000s - before the major drug crackdown which resulted in the extradition of persons such as Robroy 'Spy' Williams, Glenford Williams, Vivian Dalley, Donavan 'Plucky 'Williams and Leebert Ramcharan - the drugs-for-guns business flourished in the parish.
Then, the major players in the drug trade supported the criminals, who protected their businesses. Even members of the police force were believed to have been on the payroll of the drug lords.
"They are the 'Mr Bigs'. They are those who contain and control and support these criminals with weaponry and money so that they are able to evade the police from time to time," then Superintendent Newton Amos told a 2003 Gleaner Editors' Forum.
Following last Wednesday's carnage, Parkins made a plea to the residents to partner with the police in their bid to stem the rampant criminality.
"We are calling on the public to assist the police by telling us what they know in regard to … criminal activities," he Parkins.
"We must not allow the criminals to continue to flourish, or we will all suffer."
However, with a long history of distrust between inner-city residents and the police, it might well require the input of other elements.